© Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Southwest Franciscan Missions Development Office 2016

History of the Franciscans in the Southwest

In Sacred Heart Cathedral in Gallup, New Mexico, two beautiful stained glass windows commemorate two Franciscans, Marcos de Niza and Anselm Weber. These men will never be declared saints, but they played significant roles in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in the Diocese of Gallup and in the rest of the Southwest. These two figures symbolize two distinct eras of Franciscan presence in New Mexico and Arizona. Marcos de Niza came to this area in 1539 and Anselm Weber in 1898.

Before 1539

Before the name of Jesus was ever pronounced in what is now New Mexico, people of faith had walked over the land for thousands of years. Known today as the Anasazi, these people were the ancestors of the Pueblo Indians who can be found throughout New Mexico and in Northern Arizona. The Pueblo Indians had developed a complex social structure and rich life of faith, when sometime in the fifteenth or sixteenth century, another group of Indians entered the area at the end of their own long migration from western Canada. These people, whom we call the Navajo and Apaches, brought a nomadic hunter/gatherer lifestyle into the world of the settled, farming Pueblos. The newcomers did not always get along with those who were already here. The word "Anasazi," is the Navajo word for ancient enemies or ancestors of our enemies. The word Apache, which would become the name by which some of the newcomers would be known, is a corruption of the Zuni Pueblo language word for "enemy." Before the first Spaniards ever settled in what is now New Mexico, the culture and faith which so much shaped those first Spanish settlers had been formed by hundreds of years of political and religious struggle on the Iberian peninsula of Europe. Christianity took root on the Iberian peninsula during the time of the Roman Empire, but that Christian faith was severely tested by the invasion of those who proclaimed, "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is His Prophet." This Islamic invasion of western Europe was stopped in the Pyrenees Mountains by Charles Martel in 732. Those mountains effectively separate the Iberian Peninsula geographically from the rest of western Europe, and for more than seven hundred years, Islamic influence and the struggle to maintain their Christian faith on the part of the people of Iberian Peninsula would separate them culturally from the rest of Europe as well. When the Christian Spaniards succeeded in resting control of their land from the Muslims, their Faith was as hardened as the steel of their swords, and they were ready for great things. The year was 1492.

1598 - Entrada

In 1492, Columbus set off a wave of exploration and evangelization by subjects of the Spanish crown. The Franciscans first sailed with Columbus in 1493. By 1519 they were in Mexico, and in 1539, a lost Franciscan, Marcos de Niza, brings our story of the Church to New Mexico by becoming the first European to look upon the Land of Enchantment. Marcos saw what is today Zuni Pueblo in western New Mexico, though he did not enter the village. From the west the buildings of Zuni, made from adobe, or dried mud which included quartz, glistened in the setting sun and looked as if they could have been made of gold! Marcos eventually made his way back to Mexico City, where the fact that he did not know exactly where he had been and exactly what he had seen did not stop him from telling a great story. In fairness to Marcos, he was from Nice (in France) told his story in broken Spanish which others greatly embellished. Don Francisco Coronado with several Franciscan missionaries came in 1541 and began the story of the entrada, or entrance of Catholicism into New Mexico. Missionaries and European settlers came to New Mexico to stay in 1598. The Franciscans would evangelize the Pueblo Indians, who in turn would become productive citizens of the Spanish Empire, or at least, that was the theory. But the nature of New Mexico's climate and land eventually made it clear that the colony was never going to be a great economic success. It was even suggested to the Spanish royal authorities that the colony be abandoned. But Franciscans at the Royal Court of Spain persuaded the King to maintain the project as a work of Christian charity. The Spanish government heavily subsidized the mission effort and, in exchange for the money which the government provided, maintained a tight control over the missions. The government decided how many Franciscan missionaries would be sent to each mission. Further, the government decreed that no one could join the Franciscans until he was not only the son of Christians, but also the grandson of Christians. Among the Pueblo Indians, this requirement led to the belief that their ministers were always to come from the outside, thus vocations to the priesthood and religious life are almost unknown among them, even to this day. Europeans brought new technology to New Mexico, including new crops (such as chili), metal implements, wheeled carts and wagons, and the horses to power them. These technologies made demands on the limited resources of the land. The territory could barely sustain the demands of the growing population in good times. In the 1670' s a series of droughts led to crop failures and widespread discontent among the Pueblo Indians. The Indians saw conflicts between the civil government, which wanted the Indians to work to pay their taxes and the Franciscan missionaries, who wanted them to spend time learning the Faith as well as tending to the missions' needs. By August 1680, these stresses led to a rejection of the Catholic faith by many of the Pueblos and a revolt against the Spanish government. Twenty-one Franciscans were killed in the revolt, but its greatest Witnesses of the Faith, which is what the word "martyr" means, were the Pueblo Indians who would not abandon Catholicism, and instead faced death or exile at the hands of their own brothers and sisters.

1692 - Spanish Return to the Southwest

When Spanish authority and Franciscan missionaries returned to New Mexico in the 1690' s after being forced into exile by the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, they encountered a new reality. Their power, and perhaps even their Faith, were no longer beyond question. The Spanish knew at some level of their being that the ways of the Pueblo Indians could no longer simply be dismissed, but that the Pueblos and the Spanish must cooperate. The absence of the Spanish had emboldened the nomadic Indians: the Navajo, the Apache, the Ute and the Comanche. Their raids, now effectively using horses, devastated New Mexico. Throughout this period, the Pueblos and the Spanish would fight side by side to defend themselves from the nomads. The Franciscans learned to accommodate some traditional Pueblo religious ceremonialism. This time saw the emergence of some Pueblo ways of celebrating Christian faith. Centuries old Pueblo dances became a part of Christmas, Easter and the patronal feast days in the Native American villages, where they continue to enrich and enliven these moments to the current day. Jerome J. Martinez y A1lire, the Rector of St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico and noted local historian, says that this era saw the emergence of a truly New Mexican culture, marked by these characteristics: Primacy of the Divine - Among both the Pueblos and the Spanish, no one questioned but that the world was in God's hands. Good things were blessings which God sent; hard times were trials which could be endured with God's help. Importance of Extended Family - The truth of the maxim, "I don't have insurance, I have family," was self-evident throughout New Mexico. Joys and burdens were shared within extended families giving a deep sense of connection and community to all Hard Work and Long-suffering - No one expected life to be easy. Life was full of hard work to make a living under the often harsh conditions which climate and geography imposed upon New Mexico. Accustomed to Death - Death was an ever present part of life. Spanish and Pueblo Indian alike were often reminded of how real and near death could be as they walked through the campo santo, or cemetery, to enter Church every time religious services were held. Particular Art and Architecture - While people of every region of the earth tend to develop particular art and architecture, New Mexico's combination of Pueblo and Spanish peoples produced mission architecture and santos, along with extraordinary weaving and pottery. Archaic Language and Continuing Cultural Development - Again, the phenomenon of isolation often leads to archaic language and continuing cultural development. In New Mexico language and culture developed in unique ways. 1798 saw the first arrival of diocesan priests assigned to New Mexico. Initially, they supplemented the work of the Franciscans in larger communities such as Santa Fe and Santa Cruz, while the Franciscans continued to serve in those places too small or too poor to be self-supporting.

1598 - Entrada

In 1492, Columbus set off a wave of exploration and evangelization by subjects of the Spanish crown. The Franciscans first sailed with Columbus in 1493. By 1519 they were in Mexico, and in 1539, a lost Franciscan, Marcos de Niza, brings our story of the Church to New Mexico by becoming the first European to look upon the Land of Enchantment. Marcos saw what is today Zuni Pueblo in western New Mexico, though he did not enter the village. From the west the buildings of Zuni, made from adobe, or dried mud which included quartz, glistened in the setting sun and looked as if they could have been made of gold! Marcos eventually made his way back to Mexico City, where the fact that he did not know exactly where he had been and exactly what he had seen did not stop him from telling a great story. In fairness to Marcos, he was from Nice (in France) told his story in broken Spanish which others greatly embellished. Don Francisco Coronado with several Franciscan missionaries came in 1541 and began the story of the entrada, or entrance of Catholicism into New Mexico. Missionaries and European settlers came to New Mexico to stay in 1598. The Franciscans would evangelize the Pueblo Indians, who in turn would become productive citizens of the Spanish Empire, or at least, that was the theory. But the nature of New Mexico's climate and land eventually made it clear that the colony was never going to be a great economic success. It was even suggested to the Spanish royal authorities that the colony be abandoned. But Franciscans at the Royal Court of Spain persuaded the King to maintain the project as a work of Christian charity. The Spanish government heavily subsidized the mission effort and, in exchange for the money which the government provided, maintained a tight control over the missions. The government decided how many Franciscan missionaries would be sent to each mission. Further, the government decreed that no one could join the Franciscans until he was not only the son of Christians, but also the grandson of Christians. Among the Pueblo Indians, this requirement led to the belief that their ministers were always to come from the outside, thus vocations to the priesthood and religious life are almost unknown among them, even to this day. Europeans brought new technology to New Mexico, including new crops (such as chili), metal implements, wheeled carts and wagons, and the horses to power them. These technologies made demands on the limited resources of the land. The territory could barely sustain the demands of the growing population in good times. In the 1670' s a series of droughts led to crop failures and widespread discontent among the Pueblo Indians. The Indians saw conflicts between the civil government, which wanted the Indians to work to pay their taxes and the Franciscan missionaries, who wanted them to spend time learning the Faith as well as tending to the missions' needs. By August 1680, these stresses led to a rejection of the Catholic faith by many of the Pueblos and a revolt against the Spanish government. Twenty-one Franciscans were killed in the revolt, but its greatest Witnesses of the Faith, which is what the word "martyr" means, were the Pueblo Indians who would not abandon Catholicism, and instead faced death or exile at the hands of their own brothers and sisters.

1692 - Spanish Return to the Southwest

When Spanish authority and Franciscan missionaries returned to New Mexico in the 1690' s after being forced into exile by the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, they encountered a new reality. Their power, and perhaps even their Faith, were no longer beyond question. The Spanish knew at some level of their being that the ways of the Pueblo Indians could no longer simply be dismissed, but that the Pueblos and the Spanish must cooperate. The absence of the Spanish had emboldened the nomadic Indians: the Navajo, the Apache, the Ute and the Comanche. Their raids, now effectively using horses, devastated New Mexico. Throughout this period, the Pueblos and the Spanish would fight side by side to defend themselves from the nomads. The Franciscans learned to accommodate some traditional Pueblo religious ceremonialism. This time saw the emergence of some Pueblo ways of celebrating Christian faith. Centuries old Pueblo dances became a part of Christmas, Easter and the patronal feast days in the Native American villages, where they continue to enrich and enliven these moments to the current day. Jerome J. Martinez y A1lire, the Rector of St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico and noted local historian, says that this era saw the emergence of a truly New Mexican culture, marked by these characteristics: Primacy of the Divine - Among both the Pueblos and the Spanish, no one questioned but that the world was in God's hands. Good things were blessings which God sent; hard times were trials which could be endured with God's help. Importance of Extended Family - The truth of the maxim, "I don't have insurance, I have family," was self-evident throughout New Mexico. Joys and burdens were shared within extended families giving a deep sense of connection and community to all Hard Work and Long-suffering - No one expected life to be easy. Life was full of hard work to make a living under the often harsh conditions which climate and geography imposed upon New Mexico. Accustomed to Death - Death was an ever present part of life. Spanish and Pueblo Indian alike were often reminded of how real and near death could be as they walked through the campo santo, or cemetery, to enter Church every time religious services were held. Particular Art and Architecture - While people of every region of the earth tend to develop particular art and architecture, New Mexico's combination of Pueblo and Spanish peoples produced mission architecture and santos, along with extraordinary weaving and pottery. Archaic Language and Continuing Cultural Development - Again, the phenomenon of isolation often leads to archaic language and continuing cultural development. In New Mexico language and culture developed in unique ways. 1798 saw the first arrival of diocesan priests assigned to New Mexico. Initially, they supplemented the work of the Franciscans in larger communities such as Santa Fe and Santa Cruz, while the Franciscans continued to serve in those places too small or too poor to be self-supporting.

1821-1846 The Mexican Era and the US Arrival

In 1900 other friars arrived in the Southwest from the Cincinnati Province, including Berard Haile who would become a great scholar of the Navajo language and culture, eventually writing or contributing to twenty-two books about the Dine, as the Navajo refer to themselves. In 1902, St. Katharine Drexel's dream came true with the opening of St. Michael School which has served Navajo children for over one hundred years. Until St. Michael School opened, if Navajo children went to a formal school at all, they did so as virtual prisoners of the Federal government. The U. S. Army rounded them up and carried them off to government boarding schools without regard to the wishes of their parents. St. Michael School was run under a very different, voluntary model. Anselm Weber spent weeks riding around the Navajo Reservation talking to the Navajo and inviting them to send their children to "the Sisters' School." The parents came as well to see how the Sisters would treat their children. When the school opened in December 1902, 47 children and their parents were there. After they stayed long enough to be assured of the Sisters' good treatment of the children, the parents returned to their homes leaving their kids in the Sisters' care.

1900 "Return" to New Mexico

In 1900, the Franciscans from Cincinnati accepted the responsibility for ministry at Peña Blanca, New Mexico in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Along with the small Spanish community at Peña Blanca, the parish included the Native American Pueblos of Cochiti, Santo Domingo and San Felipe, first evangelized by Franciscans from Spain in the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1902, ministry in New Mexico would continue to expand to include Jemez Pueblo, with missions in two other Pueblos, Zia and Santa Ana, as well as three Hispanic villages: San Isidro, Cafion and Ponderosa. In 1903, the friars went to Roswell. In 1908 they began ministry in Clovis, in 1910 in Farmington and Gallup, as well as the Pueblo Indian missions of Zuni, Laguna and Acoma. In 1916 and 1917, ministry began with the northern New Mexico Hispanics of Los Ojos (then called Parkview) and the area of Tierra Amarilla and Chama, as well as with Jicarilla Apaches in Lumberton, New Mexico. Over the one hundred years from 1900 to 2000 ministry in New Mexico would also include the Cathedral of St. Francis in Santa Fe, Holy Family Parish and Queen of Angels Indian Chapel in Albuquerque, as well as parishes in Portales, Grants, Cuba and many outlying missions from all of these places.

1862-1921 Anselm Weber

The friar who pushed for much of the expansion of Franciscan ministry throughout New Mexico and on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona was Anselm Weber. Anselm was born in 1862 in Michigan and entered the Franciscan community in 1882, being ordained a priest in 1889. He taught at various levels of Franciscan formation before volunteering to be among the first friars to go to the Navajo Reservation in the Southwest. He served at St. Michaels, Arizona from the time he arrived in 1898 until his death in 1921. During that time, by making numerous trips to Washington and arguing on their behalf, Anselm helped the Navajo Indians gain control of much of the land that had not been officially included as part of their reservation, though they had long lived on it. He helped organize the self-government of the Navajo. To this day the local unit of the Navajo government is called a "chapter," after the meetings which Franciscans hold in conducting their internal affairs. Typical of his activities was his summer "vacation" of 1910 when he traveled over 1000 miles on horseback around the Navajo Reservation to secure the parental permission for children to receive Catholic religious instruction at the government boarding school at Fort Defiance, Arizona. He worked hand in hand with St. Katharine Drexel and with other national figures within the Catholic Church to promote the evangelization of the Navajo and came to be known as the "Apostle to the Navajo," the title under his stain glass window portrait in Sacred Heart Cathedral in Gallup, New Mexico.

1872-1932 Archbishop Albert Daeger

In 1919, to his great surprise, Albert Thomas Daeger, OFM, at the time the pastor of the Franciscan mission at Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico, was named the sixth Archbishop of Santa Fe. He continued the hard work that he had done since his arrival as a missionary priest among the Pueblo Indian and Spanish-speaking people of New Mexico in 1902. During his time as Archbishop he brought several communities of religious sisters and men to minister in the Archdiocese, which at that time included almost all of New Mexico. He ordained the first native New Mexican priests in many years. Archbishop Daeger was the first archbishop of Santa Fe who had not been born in France. His five predecessors had brought 119 priests from France to serve in the Archdiocese and the many French priests who remained did not always make life easy for this grandson of German immigrants, serving as he did immediately after World War I. Archbishop Daeger died suddenly and tragically in a fall down a flight of stairs into a coal bin in Santa Fe. He was much beloved and much mourned as the good "Padre Alberto" of the missions.

1892-1971 Bishop Bernard Espelage

After his ordination as a priest, Bernard went to work in Roswell, New Mexico, and in 1920 from there to the Cathedral in Santa Fe where he became secretary to Archbishop Daeger. After studies in Canon (Church) Law from 1925 to 1926, he served as Chancellor of the Archdiocese and was proposed by his Franciscan Provincial Minister to succeed Archbishop Daeger at the Archbishop's untimely death. Rome did not name the young friar, for he was only forty years old at the time, but must have remembered the high regard in which he was held by so many. When the Diocese of Gallup was established in 1939, Bernard was named the first bishop. He went to work establishing the Diocese which stretched over the northwestern third of New Mexico and the northeastern third of Arizona, covering the Navajo Indian Reservation. When the Diocese of Gallup was formed, Franciscans formed the clergy, so Bernard set about obtaining diocesan priests too. He attended all of the sessions of the Second Vatican Council from 1963 to 1965 and did not retire until 1970, serving as Bishop for thirty years and died on February 19th, 1971, not long after he retired.

1910-1996 Fray Angelico Chavez

Born in rural New Mexico in 1910 into a family which could trace its local roots back to 1598, Angelico Chavez a poet, artist, historian and Franciscan priest, began a love affair with the history and culture of New Mexico at a young age which lasted throughout his long life. He was proud of the fact that when he was ordained in St. Francis Cathedral in 1936, he was the first native New Mexican to become a Franciscan priest. He worked in the rural parishes of Pen a Blanca and Jemez Pueblo for most of his career as a friar, though in World War II he went off to serve as a military chaplain and made three beach head landings in the Pacific. Later he was recalled to service during the Korean Conflict, but served in Europe, which allowed him to visit Spain and do background research for later writings. In his youth he wrote poetry and painted, then in mid-life began to focus on history. His 1954 work Origins of New Mexico Families, developed while he was organizing the Archives of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, has been often' reprinted. In 1972, he was inducted as an Oficial de la Orden de Isabella Catolica by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain in honor of his life long work in behalf of the preservation of Spanish culture and history. But despite fame and honors, his real passion in his research, his writings, and his talks, was always "to set the record straight."

1985 The Province or Our Lady of Guadalupe

In 1984, the Provincial Chapter of St. John the Baptist Province, the highest governing body of the Province, met for the first time in the Southwest, at the College of Santa Fe. After eighty-six years of missions in the Southwest, and decades of discussion of the idea, the friars voted to petition the general administration of the Franciscan Order in Rome to establish an independent entity in the New Mexico and Arizona. As a result of this action, on the third of January, 1985, the Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe was formally erected by decree of the Most Reverend John Vaughn, the Minister General of the Friars Minor, who was present in the Cathedral of St. Francis in Santa Fe for the occasion. Approximately one hundred friars, all but a few working and living in the Southwest, became the founding members of the new Province. At the time, the friars were working among the Navajo and Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Arizona as well as with the Hispanic people in a number of parishes. They were also soon to be involved in ministry of the Word, preaching retreats and parish missions. The headquarters of the Province was first established in rented quarters in Albuquerque, then moved to Tepeyac House on Five Points Road, before relocating to the present address on Lakeview Road in 1991. New members initially came slowly to the Province, though it seemed that one, two or even three or four men would come to discern their vocation with the friars each year. These new men were not enough to offset the number of friars who died or left the Order, so that over time, some of the ministry which the friars did in 1985 was relinquished to others. One such return of a place to the care of the diocese was specifically not done because of personnel decrease. In 2000, ministry at St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe was handed back to the Archdiocese. The friars had come to the Cathedral under the Franciscan Archbishop Albert Daeger in 1920, but by 2000 there had long been no real reason for Franciscans to staff the mother Church of the Archdiocese. In 1994, the friars stepped out in faith and committed two of their number to foreign missions in Peru, where one remained until 2003. Also the friars continued to work more and more in collaboration with lay ministers among the Navajo, Pueblo and Hispanic peoples of the Southwest, as well as in the ministry of the Word. The Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque began in 1987 as an exciting joint effort of Franciscan friar Richard Rohr and many lay people to find new ways to share the Word of God.

2000 and Beyond: A Golden Opportunity

In the fall of 2000, the first three of several young men who had begun Franciscan formation in Mexico came to the Province to continue their Franciscan life. By 2003 over twenty young men had come from Mexico with thoughts of becoming friars of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province. Though the pace has slowed down a bit, some are still coming from Mexico to join the Southwest Franciscans. Others have come from Santa Fe and Albuquerque with a variety of talents and interests. The Holy Spirit remains the true guide for the Franciscans in the Southwest, just as back in 1539 the Holy Spirit led the lost friar Marcos de Niza to be the first European to look upon Arizona and New Mexico. Fray Marcos looked at Zuni Pueblo and thought that he saw a city of gold, never knowing that what he really saw was a golden opportunity for the spread of the Gospel. The Franciscans continue to pursue that golden opportunity today. The Secular Franciscans are and Order of men and women who try to live their lives in the world living out the Gospel by following the example of St. Francis. They used to be called the Third Order of St. Francis. 

History of our Province

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History of our Province

History of the Franciscans in the Southwest In Sacred Heart Cathedral in Gallup, New Mexico, two beautiful stained glass windows commemorate two Franciscans, Marcos de Niza and Anselm Weber. These men will never be declared saints, but they played significant roles in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in the Diocese of Gallup and in the rest of the Southwest. These two figures symbolize two distinct eras of Franciscan presence in New Mexico and Arizona. Marcos de Niza came to this area in 1539 and Anselm Weber in 1898.

Before 1539

Before the name of Jesus was ever pronounced in what is now New Mexico, people of faith had walked over the land for thousands of years. Known today as the Anasazi, these people were the ancestors of the Pueblo Indians who can be found throughout New Mexico and in Northern Arizona. The Pueblo Indians had developed a complex social structure and rich life of faith, when sometime in the fifteenth or sixteenth century, another group of Indians entered the area at the end of their own long migration from western Canada. These people, whom we call the Navajo and Apaches, brought a nomadic hunter/gatherer lifestyle into the world of the settled, farming Pueblos. The newcomers did not always get along with those who were already here. The word "Anasazi," is the Navajo word for ancient enemies or ancestors of our enemies. The word Apache, which would become the name by which some of the newcomers would be known, is a corruption of the Zuni Pueblo language word for "enemy." Before the first Spaniards ever settled in what is now New Mexico, the culture and faith which so much shaped those first Spanish settlers had been formed by hundreds of years of political and religious struggle on the Iberian peninsula of Europe. Christianity took root on the Iberian peninsula during the time of the Roman Empire, but that Christian faith was severely tested by the invasion of those who proclaimed, "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is His Prophet." This Islamic invasion of western Europe was stopped in the Pyrenees Mountains by Charles Martel in 732. Those mountains effectively separate the Iberian Peninsula geographically from the rest of western Europe, and for more than seven hundred years, Islamic influence and the struggle to maintain their Christian faith on the part of the people of Iberian Peninsula would separate them culturally from the rest of Europe as well. When the Christian Spaniards succeeded in resting control of their land from the Muslims, their Faith was as hardened as the steel of their swords, and they were ready for great things. The year was 1492.

1598 - Entrada

In 1492, Columbus set off a wave of exploration and evangelization by subjects of the Spanish crown. The Franciscans first sailed with Columbus in 1493. By 1519 they were in Mexico, and in 1539, a lost Franciscan, Marcos de Niza, brings our story of the Church to New Mexico by becoming the first European to look upon the Land of Enchantment. Marcos saw what is today Zuni Pueblo in western New Mexico, though he did not enter the village. From the west the buildings of Zuni, made from adobe, or dried mud which included quartz, glistened in the setting sun and looked as if they could have been made of gold! Marcos eventually made his way back to Mexico City, where the fact that he did not know exactly where he had been and exactly what he had seen did not stop him from telling a great story. In fairness to Marcos, he was from Nice (in France) told his story in broken Spanish which others greatly embellished. Don Francisco Coronado with several Franciscan missionaries came in 1541 and began the story of the entrada, or entrance of Catholicism into New Mexico. Missionaries and European settlers came to New Mexico to stay in 1598. The Franciscans would evangelize the Pueblo Indians, who in turn would become productive citizens of the Spanish Empire, or at least, that was the theory. But the nature of New Mexico's climate and land eventually made it clear that the colony was never going to be a great economic success. It was even suggested to the Spanish royal authorities that the colony be abandoned. But Franciscans at the Royal Court of Spain persuaded the King to maintain the project as a work of Christian charity. The Spanish government heavily subsidized the mission effort and, in exchange for the money which the government provided, maintained a tight control over the missions. The government decided how many Franciscan missionaries would be sent to each mission. Further, the government decreed that no one could join the Franciscans until he was not only the son of Christians, but also the grandson of Christians. Among the Pueblo Indians, this requirement led to the belief that their ministers were always to come from the outside, thus vocations to the priesthood and religious life are almost unknown among them, even to this day. Europeans brought new technology to New Mexico, including new crops (such as chili), metal implements, wheeled carts and wagons, and the horses to power them. These technologies made demands on the limited resources of the land. The territory could barely sustain the demands of the growing population in good times. In the 1670' s a series of droughts led to crop failures and widespread discontent among the Pueblo Indians. The Indians saw conflicts between the civil government, which wanted the Indians to work to pay their taxes and the Franciscan missionaries, who wanted them to spend time learning the Faith as well as tending to the missions' needs. By August 1680, these stresses led to a rejection of the Catholic faith by many of the Pueblos and a revolt against the Spanish government. Twenty-one Franciscans were killed in the revolt, but its greatest Witnesses of the Faith, which is what the word "martyr" means, were the Pueblo Indians who would not abandon Catholicism, and instead faced death or exile at the hands of their own brothers and sisters.

1692 - Spanish Return to the Southwest

When Spanish authority and Franciscan missionaries returned to New Mexico in the 1690' s after being forced into exile by the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, they encountered a new reality. Their power, and perhaps even their Faith, were no longer beyond question. The Spanish knew at some level of their being that the ways of the Pueblo Indians could no longer simply be dismissed, but that the Pueblos and the Spanish must cooperate. The absence of the Spanish had emboldened the nomadic Indians: the Navajo, the Apache, the Ute and the Comanche. Their raids, now effectively using horses, devastated New Mexico. Throughout this period, the Pueblos and the Spanish would fight side by side to defend themselves from the nomads. The Franciscans learned to accommodate some traditional Pueblo religious ceremonialism. This time saw the emergence of some Pueblo ways of celebrating Christian faith. Centuries old Pueblo dances became a part of Christmas, Easter and the patronal feast days in the Native American villages, where they continue to enrich and enliven these moments to the current day. Jerome J. Martinez y A1lire, the Rector of St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico and noted local historian, says that this era saw the emergence of a truly New Mexican culture, marked by these characteristics: Primacy of the Divine - Among both the Pueblos and the Spanish, no one questioned but that the world was in God's hands. Good things were blessings which God sent; hard times were trials which could be endured with God's help. Importance of Extended Family - The truth of the maxim, "I don't have insurance, I have family," was self-evident throughout New Mexico. Joys and burdens were shared within extended families giving a deep sense of connection and community to all Hard Work and Long-suffering - No one expected life to be easy. Life was full of hard work to make a living under the often harsh conditions which climate and geography imposed upon New Mexico. Accustomed to Death - Death was an ever present part of life. Spanish and Pueblo Indian alike were often reminded of how real and near death could be as they walked through the campo santo, or cemetery, to enter Church every time religious services were held. Particular Art and Architecture - While people of every region of the earth tend to develop particular art and architecture, New Mexico's combination of Pueblo and Spanish peoples produced mission architecture and santos, along with extraordinary weaving and pottery. Archaic Language and Continuing Cultural Development - Again, the phenomenon of isolation often leads to archaic language and continuing cultural development. In New Mexico language and culture developed in unique ways. 1798 saw the first arrival of diocesan priests assigned to New Mexico. Initially, they supplemented the work of the Franciscans in larger communities such as Santa Fe and Santa Cruz, while the Franciscans continued to serve in those places too small or too poor to be self-supporting.

1598 - Entrada

In 1492, Columbus set off a wave of exploration and evangelization by subjects of the Spanish crown. The Franciscans first sailed with Columbus in 1493. By 1519 they were in Mexico, and in 1539, a lost Franciscan, Marcos de Niza, brings our story of the Church to New Mexico by becoming the first European to look upon the Land of Enchantment. Marcos saw what is today Zuni Pueblo in western New Mexico, though he did not enter the village. From the west the buildings of Zuni, made from adobe, or dried mud which included quartz, glistened in the setting sun and looked as if they could have been made of gold! Marcos eventually made his way back to Mexico City, where the fact that he did not know exactly where he had been and exactly what he had seen did not stop him from telling a great story. In fairness to Marcos, he was from Nice (in France) told his story in broken Spanish which others greatly embellished. Don Francisco Coronado with several Franciscan missionaries came in 1541 and began the story of the entrada, or entrance of Catholicism into New Mexico. Missionaries and European settlers came to New Mexico to stay in 1598. The Franciscans would evangelize the Pueblo Indians, who in turn would become productive citizens of the Spanish Empire, or at least, that was the theory. But the nature of New Mexico's climate and land eventually made it clear that the colony was never going to be a great economic success. It was even suggested to the Spanish royal authorities that the colony be abandoned. But Franciscans at the Royal Court of Spain persuaded the King to maintain the project as a work of Christian charity. The Spanish government heavily subsidized the mission effort and, in exchange for the money which the government provided, maintained a tight control over the missions. The government decided how many Franciscan missionaries would be sent to each mission. Further, the government decreed that no one could join the Franciscans until he was not only the son of Christians, but also the grandson of Christians. Among the Pueblo Indians, this requirement led to the belief that their ministers were always to come from the outside, thus vocations to the priesthood and religious life are almost unknown among them, even to this day. Europeans brought new technology to New Mexico, including new crops (such as chili), metal implements, wheeled carts and wagons, and the horses to power them. These technologies made demands on the limited resources of the land. The territory could barely sustain the demands of the growing population in good times. In the 1670' s a series of droughts led to crop failures and widespread discontent among the Pueblo Indians. The Indians saw conflicts between the civil government, which wanted the Indians to work to pay their taxes and the Franciscan missionaries, who wanted them to spend time learning the Faith as well as tending to the missions' needs. By August 1680, these stresses led to a rejection of the Catholic faith by many of the Pueblos and a revolt against the Spanish government. Twenty-one Franciscans were killed in the revolt, but its greatest Witnesses of the Faith, which is what the word "martyr" means, were the Pueblo Indians who would not abandon Catholicism, and instead faced death or exile at the hands of their own brothers and sisters.

1692 - Spanish Return to the Southwest

When Spanish authority and Franciscan missionaries returned to New Mexico in the 1690' s after being forced into exile by the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, they encountered a new reality. Their power, and perhaps even their Faith, were no longer beyond question. The Spanish knew at some level of their being that the ways of the Pueblo Indians could no longer simply be dismissed, but that the Pueblos and the Spanish must cooperate. The absence of the Spanish had emboldened the nomadic Indians: the Navajo, the Apache, the Ute and the Comanche. Their raids, now effectively using horses, devastated New Mexico. Throughout this period, the Pueblos and the Spanish would fight side by side to defend themselves from the nomads. The Franciscans learned to accommodate some traditional Pueblo religious ceremonialism. This time saw the emergence of some Pueblo ways of celebrating Christian faith. Centuries old Pueblo dances became a part of Christmas, Easter and the patronal feast days in the Native American villages, where they continue to enrich and enliven these moments to the current day. Jerome J. Martinez y A1lire, the Rector of St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico and noted local historian, says that this era saw the emergence of a truly New Mexican culture, marked by these characteristics: Primacy of the Divine - Among both the Pueblos and the Spanish, no one questioned but that the world was in God's hands. Good things were blessings which God sent; hard times were trials which could be endured with God's help. Importance of Extended Family - The truth of the maxim, "I don't have insurance, I have family," was self-evident throughout New Mexico. Joys and burdens were shared within extended families giving a deep sense of connection and community to all Hard Work and Long-suffering - No one expected life to be easy. Life was full of hard work to make a living under the often harsh conditions which climate and geography imposed upon New Mexico. Accustomed to Death - Death was an ever present part of life. Spanish and Pueblo Indian alike were often reminded of how real and near death could be as they walked through the campo santo, or cemetery, to enter Church every time religious services were held. Particular Art and Architecture - While people of every region of the earth tend to develop particular art and architecture, New Mexico's combination of Pueblo and Spanish peoples produced mission architecture and santos, along with extraordinary weaving and pottery. Archaic Language and Continuing Cultural Development - Again, the phenomenon of isolation often leads to archaic language and continuing cultural development. In New Mexico language and culture developed in unique ways.
Southwest Franciscan Missions Development Office
Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe
1798 saw the first arrival of diocesan priests assigned to New Mexico. Initially, they supplemented the work of the Franciscans in larger communities such as Santa Fe and Santa Cruz, while the Franciscans continued to serve in those places too small or too poor to be self-supporting.

1821-1846 The Mexican Era and the US Arrival

In 1900 other friars arrived in the Southwest from the Cincinnati Province, including Berard Haile who would become a great scholar of the Navajo language and culture, eventually writing or contributing to twenty-two books about the Dine, as the Navajo refer to themselves. In 1902, St. Katharine Drexel's dream came true with the opening of St. Michael School which has served Navajo children for over one hundred years. Until St. Michael School opened, if Navajo children went to a formal school at all, they did so as virtual prisoners of the Federal government. The U. S. Army rounded them up and carried them off to government boarding schools without regard to the wishes of their parents. St. Michael School was run under a very different, voluntary model. Anselm Weber spent weeks riding around the Navajo Reservation talking to the Navajo and inviting them to send their children to "the Sisters' School." The parents came as well to see how the Sisters would treat their children. When the school opened in December 1902, 47 children and their parents were there. After they stayed long enough to be assured of the Sisters' good treatment of the children, the parents returned to their homes leaving their kids in the Sisters' care.

1900 "Return" to New Mexico

In 1900, the Franciscans from Cincinnati accepted the responsibility for ministry at Peña Blanca, New Mexico in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Along with the small Spanish community at Peña Blanca, the parish included the Native American Pueblos of Cochiti, Santo Domingo and San Felipe, first evangelized by Franciscans from Spain in the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1902, ministry in New Mexico would continue to expand to include Jemez Pueblo, with missions in two other Pueblos, Zia and Santa Ana, as well as three Hispanic villages: San Isidro, Cafion and Ponderosa. In 1903, the friars went to Roswell. In 1908 they began ministry in Clovis, in 1910 in Farmington and Gallup, as well as the Pueblo Indian missions of Zuni, Laguna and Acoma. In 1916 and 1917, ministry began with the northern New Mexico Hispanics of Los Ojos (then called Parkview) and the area of Tierra Amarilla and Chama, as well as with Jicarilla Apaches in Lumberton, New Mexico. Over the one hundred years from 1900 to 2000 ministry in New Mexico would also include the Cathedral of St. Francis in Santa Fe, Holy Family Parish and Queen of Angels Indian Chapel in Albuquerque, as well as parishes in Portales, Grants, Cuba and many outlying missions from all of these places.

1862-1921 Anselm Weber

The friar who pushed for much of the expansion of Franciscan ministry throughout New Mexico and on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona was Anselm Weber. Anselm was born in 1862 in Michigan and entered the Franciscan community in 1882, being ordained a priest in 1889. He taught at various levels of Franciscan formation before volunteering to be among the first friars to go to the Navajo Reservation in the Southwest. He served at St. Michaels, Arizona from the time he arrived in 1898 until his death in 1921. During that time, by making numerous trips to Washington and arguing on their behalf, Anselm helped the Navajo Indians gain control of much of the land that had not been officially included as part of their reservation, though they had long lived on it. He helped organize the self-government of the Navajo. To this day the local unit of the Navajo government is called a "chapter," after the meetings which Franciscans hold in conducting their internal affairs. Typical of his activities was his summer "vacation" of 1910 when he traveled over 1000 miles on horseback around the Navajo Reservation to secure the parental permission for children to receive Catholic religious instruction at the government boarding school at Fort Defiance, Arizona. He worked hand in hand with St. Katharine Drexel and with other national figures within the Catholic Church to promote the evangelization of the Navajo and came to be known as the "Apostle to the Navajo," the title under his stain glass window portrait in Sacred Heart Cathedral in Gallup, New Mexico.

1872-1932 Archbishop Albert Daeger

In 1919, to his great surprise, Albert Thomas Daeger, OFM, at the time the pastor of the Franciscan mission at Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico, was named the sixth Archbishop of Santa Fe. He continued the hard work that he had done since his arrival as a missionary priest among the Pueblo Indian and Spanish-speaking people of New Mexico in 1902. During his time as Archbishop he brought several communities of religious sisters and men to minister in the Archdiocese, which at that time included almost all of New Mexico. He ordained the first native New Mexican priests in many years. Archbishop Daeger was the first archbishop of Santa Fe who had not been born in France. His five predecessors had brought 119 priests from France to serve in the Archdiocese and the many French priests who remained did not always make life easy for this grandson of German immigrants, serving as he did immediately after World War I. Archbishop Daeger died suddenly and tragically in a fall down a flight of stairs into a coal bin in Santa Fe. He was much beloved and much mourned as the good "Padre Alberto" of the missions.

1892-1971 Bishop Bernard Espelage

After his ordination as a priest, Bernard went to work in Roswell, New Mexico, and in 1920 from there to the Cathedral in Santa Fe where he became secretary to Archbishop Daeger. After studies in Canon (Church) Law from 1925 to 1926, he served as Chancellor of the Archdiocese and was proposed by his Franciscan Provincial Minister to succeed Archbishop Daeger at the Archbishop's untimely death. Rome did not name the young friar, for he was only forty years old at the time, but must have remembered the high regard in which he was held by so many. When the Diocese of Gallup was established in 1939, Bernard was named the first bishop. He went to work establishing the Diocese which stretched over the northwestern third of New Mexico and the northeastern third of Arizona, covering the Navajo Indian Reservation. When the Diocese of Gallup was formed, Franciscans formed the clergy, so Bernard set about obtaining diocesan priests too. He attended all of the sessions of the Second Vatican Council from 1963 to 1965 and did not retire until 1970, serving as Bishop for thirty years and died on February 19th, 1971, not long after he retired.

1910-1996 Fray Angelico Chavez

Born in rural New Mexico in 1910 into a family which could trace its local roots back to 1598, Angelico Chavez a poet, artist, historian and Franciscan priest, began a love affair with the history and culture of New Mexico at a young age which lasted throughout his long life. He was proud of the fact that when he was ordained in St. Francis Cathedral in 1936, he was the first native New Mexican to become a Franciscan priest. He worked in the rural parishes of Pen a Blanca and Jemez Pueblo for most of his career as a friar, though in World War II he went off to serve as a military chaplain and made three beach head landings in the Pacific. Later he was recalled to service during the Korean Conflict, but served in Europe, which allowed him to visit Spain and do background research for later writings. In his youth he wrote poetry and painted, then in mid-life began to focus on history. His 1954 work Origins of New Mexico Families, developed while he was organizing the Archives of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, has been often' reprinted. In 1972, he was inducted as an Oficial de la Orden de Isabella Catolica by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain in honor of his life long work in behalf of the preservation of Spanish culture and history. But despite fame and honors, his real passion in his research, his writings, and his talks, was always "to set the record straight."

1985 The Province or Our Lady of Guadalupe

In 1984, the Provincial Chapter of St. John the Baptist Province, the highest governing body of the Province, met for the first time in the Southwest, at the College of Santa Fe. After eighty-six years of missions in the Southwest, and decades of discussion of the idea, the friars voted to petition the general administration of the Franciscan Order in Rome to establish an independent entity in the New Mexico and Arizona. As a result of this action, on the third of January, 1985, the Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe was formally erected by decree of the Most Reverend John Vaughn, the Minister General of the Friars Minor, who was present in the Cathedral of St. Francis in Santa Fe for the occasion. Approximately one hundred friars, all but a few working and living in the Southwest, became the founding members of the new Province. At the time, the friars were working among the Navajo and Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Arizona as well as with the Hispanic people in a number of parishes. They were also soon to be involved in ministry of the Word, preaching retreats and parish missions. The headquarters of the Province was first established in rented quarters in Albuquerque, then moved to Tepeyac House on Five Points Road, before relocating to the present address on Lakeview Road in 1991. New members initially came slowly to the Province, though it seemed that one, two or even three or four men would come to discern their vocation with the friars each year. These new men were not enough to offset the number of friars who died or left the Order, so that over time, some of the ministry which the friars did in 1985 was relinquished to others. One such return of a place to the care of the diocese was specifically not done because of personnel decrease. In 2000, ministry at St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe was handed back to the Archdiocese. The friars had come to the Cathedral under the Franciscan Archbishop Albert Daeger in 1920, but by 2000 there had long been no real reason for Franciscans to staff the mother Church of the Archdiocese. In 1994, the friars stepped out in faith and committed two of their number to foreign missions in Peru, where one remained until 2003. Also the friars continued to work more and more in collaboration with lay ministers among the Navajo, Pueblo and Hispanic peoples of the Southwest, as well as in the ministry of the Word. The Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque began in 1987 as an exciting joint effort of Franciscan friar Richard Rohr and many lay people to find new ways to share the Word of God.

2000 and Beyond: A Golden Opportunity

In the fall of 2000, the first three of several young men who had begun Franciscan formation in Mexico came to the Province to continue their Franciscan life. By 2003 over twenty young men had come from Mexico with thoughts of becoming friars of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province. Though the pace has slowed down a bit, some are still coming from Mexico to join the Southwest Franciscans. Others have come from Santa Fe and Albuquerque with a variety of talents and interests. The Holy Spirit remains the true guide for the Franciscans in the Southwest, just as back in 1539 the Holy Spirit led the lost friar Marcos de Niza to be the first European to look upon Arizona and New Mexico. Fray Marcos looked at Zuni Pueblo and thought that he saw a city of gold, never knowing that what he really saw was a golden opportunity for the spread of the Gospel. The Franciscans continue to pursue that golden opportunity today. The Secular Franciscans are and Order of men and women who try to live their lives in the world living out the Gospel by following the example of St. Francis. They used to be called the Third Order of St. Francis.